During the media’s open practice sessions on the finely-manicured grass of Boise State’s practice field, there are lots of glances at the numerical roster. “Is that guy really a true freshman?” It might be the way he fills out his uniform or the way he carries himself. But Robert Mahone and Alexander Mattison are getting solid reviews so far in fall camp, and they look like they belong. As they stand on the field in pads, you think you’re seeing Doug Martin and Jay Ajayi. We don’t know yet if they possess that kind of talent, but they pass the eyeball test. Mahone is 5-10, 209 pounds, and Mattison is 5-11, 206. Bronco coach Bryan Harsin has said one true freshman running back will play this season. It would not be a surprise.
Quite a race has shaped up in the quest to be Jeremy McNichols’ primary backup. Senior Devan Demas, listed second behind McNichols on the depth chart, is the leader in the clubhouse. But Demas has to come out of the clubhouse and compete every day, especially after the sour second half of his 2015 season. Ryan Wolpin got in the mix with playmaking down the stretch last season, especially in the Poinsettia Bowl. Cory Young, after starring in the Blue & Orange Game 16 months ago, never took hold last fall (while his brother Kelsey did). And then there are Mahone and Mattison, M & M. Somehow, some way, Boise State appears to have the ability to create its first real one-two punch on the ground since Martin and Jeremy Avery.
Just 16 days from Boise State’s 2016 kickoff at Louisiana-Lafayette, Ragin’ Cajun country is consumed by relief efforts amidst epic floods. Historic rain and flooding have killed 11 people and forced more than 30,000 rescues. Parts of southern Louisiana and Mississippi have been hammered by up to 30 inches of rain since late last week, and the flood threat is not over yet. The total in Lafayette the last six days is 22.8 inches. Boise’s annual—that’s annual—rainfall average is less than 12 inches. Here’s hoping the waters recede, the residents are safe, and the football can be played on September 3. ULL’s stadium, Cajun Field, has reportedly been unaffected.
Ralph Russo of the Associated Press authored a story last weekend on New Mexico State’s decision to make a go of it again as an independent rather than move to the FCS in 2018—unlike Idaho, which also lost its spot in the Sun Belt and will rejoin the Big Sky that year. Russo’s model was Massachusetts, which goes independent this season. He points out that since UMass moved to the FBS five years ago, “the Minutemen have eight victories and 40 losses, have averaged less than the NCAA minimum attendance of 15,000 for their home games and were essentially kicked out of a conference (the MAC).” Sounds familiar to New Mexico State and Idaho.
But NMSU is unfazed despite the challenges. “Scheduling is harder. Bowls are tougher to access. Television exposure is more difficult to find. Revenue often has to come at the expense of wins,” writes Russo. The Aggies, however, place a premium on those million-dollar paydays. And they think that they have geographic advantages the Vandals obviously don’t have. New Mexico State is close enough to Texas that it feels it could be scooped up by Conference USA if there’s a trickle-down from a Big 12 expansion. But oh, the losing. Year after year after year. Ouch.
That attendance thing is interesting. Notes Russo, “UMass has a home game against Mississippi State to be played at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, home of the NFL’s Patriots. That game, along with a game at Gillette against Boston College, should help UMass reach the 15,000 minimum attendance it needs to hit this season after averaging 11,124 last season. Over three seasons, UMass’ average FBS attendance is 14,347.” I have never heard of that requirement being enforced. It certainly was never mentioned as a factor in Idaho heading back to the FCS—the Vandals averaged 13,094 fans per game over the past three years and have not hit the 15,000-mark since 2008.
Another reason to bemoan the departure of the Idaho Stampede: no chance to watch Coby Karl prowl the opposing sideline at CenturyLink Arena. Word is that the former Boise State star will be the new head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers’ D-League team, the L.A. D-Fenders. NBA brass must have noticed quickly that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree—Karl began his coaching career just last season with the D-League’s Westchester Knicks. Karl’s dad George, of course, spent 27 seasons as a head coach in the NBA, ending with his firing by the Sacramento Kings at the conclusion of last season. The elder Karl won 1,175 NBA games in his career.
Kurt Felix did Grenada proud on the first day of the decathlon at the Rio Olympics, racking up 4,290 points to earn eighth place among the 31 entrants. The first session included the 100-meters, long jump, high jump and 400-meters. The former Boise State star’s top individual performance came in the high jump, where he finished eighth at 6 feet, 9.5 inches. Today Felix competes in the 110-meter hurdles, the discus, pole vault, javelin and 1,500-meters.
Graham DeLaet has made his way from Rio to Greensboro for today’s start of the Wyndham Championship. DeLaet has to get back down to business on the PGA Tour after finishing 20th in the Olympic tournament. The former Boise State star is No. 116 in the FedExCup standings and needs to hold his ground in this, the final event of the regular season, in order to make the FedExCup Playoffs next week. Troy Merritt and Tyler Aldridge are also in the field at the Wyndham. Merritt is ranked 117th—he is set for next season thanks to the exemption he earned for his first PGA Tour victory last year. But Aldridge, sitting just below the top 125 at No. 138, needs a big performance this week to avoid having to fight his way back to the tour through the Web.comTour Finals.
The timing is certainly good for this. The Boise State men’s and women’s cross country teams will host the 2016 Mountain West Championships at Falcon Crest Golf Club in Kuna on October 28. The meet should draw a crowd, as two of the best female runners in the nation will be representing the Broncos: defending Mountain West champion Allie Ostander, who was runnerup at the NCAA Championships last fall, and Brenna Peloquin, who was ninth at nationals. The last time Boise State hosted a cross country league championship was in 2005 at Eagle Island during the WAC days. Also, the Broncos’ Sierra Nobley has been named the preseason Mountain West Volleyball Player of the Year, while BSU is picked to finish second. The team’s Blue & Orange Scrimmage is tonight in Bronco Gym.
The Eugene Emeralds pushed across a run in the bottom of the ninth inning last night to walk off with a 3-2 victory over the Boise Hawks at PK Park. The Hawks didn’t get their first base hit until Daniel Suero singled with two outs in the seventh, and they then manufactured two runs on bases-loaded walks and entered the ninth in a 2-2 tie. Boise brought in Justin Calomeni, who was riding a 12-inning scoreless streak on the mound, but Eugene’s Trent Giambrone snapped it when he ended the game on an RBI single.
This Day In Sports…August 18, 2009:
The wounds have healed now, but on this day future Hall of Famer Brett Favre shocks the Green Bay Packers’ universe by signing a two-year, $25 million deal with the rival Minnesota Vikings. That came six months after Favre tearfully announced his retirement from the New York Jets, the team for which he played one season following his first retirement from the Packers. As recently as three weeks before the Vikings deal, Favre had vowed he would never return to the gridiron. He played his final two seasons in Minnesota.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)